A-League: Melbourne City handed first loss, Mariners make it two from two

By Sports Desk January 03, 2021

Last season's beaten A-League Grand Finalists Melbourne City suffered their first loss of the season at the hands of Adelaide United.

City had started the new campaign with a 1-0 win at Brisbane Roar but Sunday's game turned on the dismissal of Scott Jamieson in the 65th minute for two yellow cards.

A poor challenge on Yaya Dukuly saw the left-back given his marching orders and from the subsequent free-kick Louis D'Arrigo pulled the ball back for Tomi Juric to stroke home.

Captain Stefan Mauk doubled Adelaide's lead in the 76th minute as they claimed their first triumph of the 2020-21 season.

Central Coast Mariners have not won more than six games in a season in each of the past six campaigns but now have two wins from two this year after a 2-0 victory at newcomers Macarthur.

Expansion team Macarthur made a winning start to life at Western Sydney Wanderers, yet goals from Daniel De Silva and Jordan Smylie brought them back down to earth this time around.

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  • Zidane tells Real Madrid to 'continue fighting' as LaLiga title hopes take hit Zidane tells Real Madrid to 'continue fighting' as LaLiga title hopes take hit

    Zinedine Zidane told Real Madrid to keep going "to the death" after a goalless draw at Getafe hit their LaLiga title prospects.

    Having cut Atletico Madrid's lead down to one point by winning El Clasico, Zidane's defending champions were second best at times at Coliseum Alfonso Perez on Sunday.

    Hampered by injuries and COVID-19 absences, under-strength Madrid needed goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to make six saves to repel a lively Getafe.

    That was the highest number of saves from shots on target that the Belgian has made in games for Madrid where he has not conceded a goal, and centre-back Eder Militao was also kept busy.

    The Brazilian defender made 10 clearances, the most he has made in a match for Madrid and one short of the highest number made by any player for Los Blancos this season, after Nacho made 11 against Liverpool in the Champions League.

    A makeshift back four of captain Marcelo, Victor Chust, Militao and Alvaro Odriozola faced a barrage of crosses from a Getafe side who belied their recent poor form, having previously won just one in 12 LaLiga matches (D4 L7) leading up to the game.

    Zidane said after the match: "We have given our maximum. It's a draw but we continue fighting. It will not end here.

    "There are many games, but the team that is going to win will need a little of everything, especially having its players.

    "We have to do our best. Look at ourselves and not look at others. It's a very difficult, competitive league. Every three days we must always be good. We must go to the death and our mentality will not change."

    Atletico's 5-0 win over Eibar earlier on Sunday means their lead is up to three points over Madrid and five over third-placed Barcelona, who have a game in hand.

    By coincidence, Atletico also drew 0-0 at Getafe last month.

    Toni Kroos was absent for Madrid, with Zidane saying the midfielder had been "in discomfort".

    "We have a lot of games and we can't do foolish things. We have to manage that," said the French head coach.

    Madrid's unbeaten away run in LaLiga extended to 11 games (W6 D5), their longest run without losing since October 2017 (W13), and the starting XI Zidane fielded had the youngest average age of any of his teams in the league this season, at 26 years and 138 days.

    Courtois was immaculate and later offered an intriguing reason for why he felt Madrid had perhaps not performed as many would have expected.

    "Playing at Getafe is never easy, the pitch was dry and it was hard to move the ball around," Courtois said, in an interview released on Twitter by the club.

    "We tried, we had a couple of good chances, as did they, and that's where I had good saves."

    He pointed to the moment Getafe hit the post through a header from Jaime Mata midway through the first half, saying: "I caught it with my finger."

    That fingertip touch had not been obvious to the naked eye. What was clear was that this result comes as a jolt, and a reminder that with the likes of Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, Eden Hazard, Kroos, Ferland Mendy and Federico Valverde unavailable, even the depth in Madrid's squad is not such to guarantee wins at tricky grounds such as Getafe's.

    "In adversity you find the strength of a group," Courtois said. "It is what we are doing all season. You always have to stand up and that's what we do."

  • Conte pleased with Eriksen improvement but says Inter midfielder can do 'much, much better' Conte pleased with Eriksen improvement but says Inter midfielder can do 'much, much better'

    Antonio Conte says there is still plenty of room for improvement from Christian Eriksen but hailed the midfielder's renewed "intensity" after he sealed a point for Inter on Sunday. 

    Eriksen looked poised to leave Inter during the mid-season break after the club's CEO Giuseppe Marotta revealed he had been placed on the transfer list.

    The former Tottenham man has forced his way back into Conte's plans, though, and secured a 1-1 draw for his side against Napoli after Samir Handanovic's first-half own goal. 

    His fine strike was his 24th from outside the area in the top five European leagues since he joined Spurs in 2013-14, with only Barcelona's Lionel Messi (59) scoring more in that period.

    The result ended the Nerazzurri's 11-game winning streak in Serie A, though they remain firm favourites to win a first league title since the 2009-10 season thanks to a nine-point advantage over second-placed Milan, who beat Genoa earlier in the day, with seven games left. 

    Conte still wants to see more from Eriksen, but is pleased with the improvements he has made to his game in recent months. 

    "Things changed when I had more time to work with him, and also I needed him to realise there is attacking and defending in football," the Inter boss told Sky Sport Italia. 

    "He took a while to adapt to a very tactical style of football that we have in Italy.

    "We tried in every way to get him settled and tried various roles. I know he can do much, much better. 

    "He is becoming more aggressive and showing more intensity, which certainly benefited the whole team."

    The result means Inter have earned the most points (75) in the top five European leagues this season, overtaking Premier League pacesetters Manchester City (74). 

    Conte was delighted with his side's ability to bounce back from Handanovic's calamitous own goal and believes it was the kind of game they might have lost last season.  

    "This was a game we may well have lost in other situations, albeit undeservedly, and we'd have struggled psychologically," he explained. 

    "Instead, we saw a team that knows what it's doing, that never loses sight of the right way forward, even if something unlucky happens, such as the own goal.

    "These are games that we would've struggled in during the past; that we would've lost or at least let our heads drop. Instead, this side never loses its way.

    "Don't forget Napoli were at full strength and I considered them one of the favourites for the Scudetto going into the season.

    "We dropped two points compared to Milan this weekend, but a draw away to Napoli is not to be snubbed."

    Inter are in Serie A action again on Wednesday when they travel to Spezia. 

  • Getafe 0-0 Real Madrid: Zidane's men stumble in LaLiga title race Getafe 0-0 Real Madrid: Zidane's men stumble in LaLiga title race

    Real Madrid might be heading for a European Super League at some point in the future but a 0-0 draw with Getafe on Sunday was a reminder of the charms of good old LaLiga.

    An under-strength Madrid were given a rough ride by their near neighbours and lost ground to Atletico Madrid as a result, Diego Simeone's team seeing their lead at the top of the table grow from one point to three on Sunday.

    After Atletico's 5-0 thumping of Eibar earlier in the day, the onus was on Zinedine Zidane's Madrid to follow up their Champions League success against Liverpool and last week's victory in El Clasico.

    This was far from being classic Madrid, although they played their part in an entertaining tussle against relative minnows at Coliseum Alfonso Perez, the sort of match that would be missed if they were ever taken away by big-money deals.

    Moments after Thibaut Courtois saved well from Mathias Olivera, Madrid had the ball in the net in the eighth minute when Mariano sprinted through and went wide of goalkeeper David Soria, sliding the ball into the net from a tight angle to the right of goal.

    That was disallowed for offside after a VAR review, and Madrid were in trouble soon after when Mauro Arambarri had a clear sight of goal from 12 yards, only to rifle a foot wide of the left post.

    The home side went even closer to a shock lead in the 23rd minute when Jaime Mata's flicked header from Nemanja Maksimovic's cross, drifted in from the left, rattled the right post.

    David Timor made an outstanding clearance to deny Mariano in front of goal after Soria failed to gather a cross from Madrid left-back Marcelo. Vinicius Junior then drew an athletic but ultimately comfortable save from Soria with a header before half-time.

    With Sergio Ramos absent through injury and Raphael Varane out after a COVID-19 positive test, it was a makeshift defence again for Madrid and they looked susceptible, Courtois having to make a fine save just before the hour mark to prevent Enes Unal finding the top left corner from 16 yards.

    Madrid were sorely lacking sparkle and Angel Rodriguez nearly made a breakthrough for Getafe with 20 minutes remaining, clipping just wide of the left post. Courtois then saved expertly when a deflected shot from Maksimovic almost looped into the back of the net, the goalkeeper preventing a shock loss.

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